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Over half of UK transport and haulage SMEs are considering switching to a four-day working week in order to save on energy costs, according to research from Close Brothers.

It found an average of 57% of companies surveyed would move to reduce working practices to save money, but this increased to 66% among firms employing between 61 and 250 staff.

Rising energy prices meant 70% of UK SMEs in the sector had reported cost increases and 63% said profits had been hit as a result.

And despite government support in the form of the energy bill relief scheme for non-domestic customers, 47% said they had been forced to take out additional finance.

The vast majority of respondents (92%) said they had explored at least one energy-saving measure, including switching off the lights; lowering the thermostat and turning off air conditioning.

John Fawcett, chief executive of Close Brothers’ transport division, said SMEs tended to be most exposed to price changes: “So, it comes as little surprise that many business owners are exploring the option of taking out funding to ensure their cashflow is protected and they’re able to continue to meet their financial commitments,” he said.

“We know through our own research that business sentiment is at its lowest since the first lockdown and has fallen significantly from record highs just 12 months ago, and energy costs are a significant contributing factor to this fall in confidence, with it ranking highest in their list of concerns, ahead of inflation, interest rates and materials supply.”